Intersection

1994, Movie, R, 98 mins

Review

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An arty remake of a 25-year-old French melodrama--Claude Sautet's 1970 LES CHOSES DE LA VIE--INTERSECTION is the sort of film Hollywood doesn't make anymore, a full-blooded romantic drama filled with love and pain and the whole damn thing. But it's a waxen, pretentious bore, and whatever chance it may have had of succeeding is foiled by casting so misguided that it's hard to imagine it wasn't meant as a vicious joke.

INTERSECTION opens with a portentous montage: a car speeding along a country road, an elaborate antique clock ticking away the seconds, bodies making love in rapturous soft focus. The prologue ends with a sickening crash, and the rest of the film unfolds in flashback, as we get to know the driver--middle-aged architect Vincent Eastman (Richard Gere)--and the women in his life. He is, we soon learn, in the midst of a romantic crisis. He has left his icy, aristocratic wife Sally (Sharon Stone) for feminist free-spirit Olivia Marshak (Lolita Davidovich), whom he met at an antiques fair, where that ostentatiously symbolic clock was purchased. He lives with Olivia, but works with Sally. He loves Olivia's unconventional attitudes (especially her forthright lustiness), but is drawn to the world of wealth and privilege to which Sally first introduced them when they were just two kids in love, foolish enough to believe that love would bridge the chasm of class and temperament that later divided them. Vincent has designed the house in which he and Olivia will live when he finally divorces Sally, but it remains a model on a table rather than a home. In addition, Vincent is troubled by the future of his teenaged daughter (Jenny Morrison): will he scar her more by divorcing her mother, or setting a ruinous emotional example by refusing to listen to his heart?

This high-gloss melodrama is meant to acquire depth and ironic profundity by unfolding in the shadow of the crash and Vincent's subsequent hospital battle for life, but INTERSECTION never rises above the level of shallow nonsense. The triangle resolves itself with Vincent's demise and an exercise in trite irony. Just before the accident, Vincent wrote a letter declaring his intention to stay with Sally, then changed his mind and called Olivia's answering machine to say he had decided to leave his wife for her. The unmailed letter remained in his pocket to be discovered by Sally after his death. She hides it, thinking that she's doing the right thing by sparing Olivia; in the end, each woman is sustained by the thought that she was the chosen one.

It's possible that everything sounds better in French, even soap opera histrionics, but one can't blame everything that's wrong with INTERSECTION on translation. Directed by ever-aspiring auteur Mark Rydell--whose previous films include THE ROSE (1979), ON GOLDEN POND (1981), and THE RIVER (1984)--and written by highly polished professionals David Rayfiel (THREE DAYS OF THE CONDOR) and Marshall Brickman (MANHATTAN), INTERSECTION is the sort of picture that lives or dies on the abilities of its cast. And its cast is simply awful.

Not every man unable to make up his mind is Hamlet; some are dithering jerks who just want to have their cake and eat it too, and that's the way the handsome but limited Gere plays Vincent Eastman, whose profession seems to be staring at handsome models of houses. Light (courtesy of top-notch cinematographer and regular Rydell collaborator Vilmos Zsigmond) filtering through his crown of silver hair, Eastman is a smug idiot with the sort of problems ordinary mortals dream of having. This makes it difficult to empathize with him and would throw the story out of balance if the women weren't equally dreadful. Following her overnight stardom as the sexual predator of BASIC INSTINCT (1992), Sharon Stone obviously looked for roles that would prove that she wasn't a one-trick pony, and the part of brittle, repressed Sally must have seemed ideal. Unfortunately, Stone's performance is all wardrobe, accessories, and hairdos; she's dressed like Grace Kelly at her iciest, but there's no sign of the woman beneath the perfectly plucked eyebrows. Lolita Davidovich's Olivia is the sum total of her wild curls and messy wardrobe; she's the sort of woman who's too full of joie de vivre to notice a run in her stockings, which makes her a delight in bed but a liability at the sort of swanky parties a successful architect must attend.

In all, INTERSECTION is a sad reminder that the days of high Hollywood melodrama are long gone, mowed down by a convoy of violent thrillers and action pictures aimed at adolescent boys--rather than adolescent girls--of all ages. (Nudity, profanity, sexual situations.) leave a comment

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